Thursday, April 2, 2015

Holy Week and RFRA

I’ve struggled to write all week because I have had a lot of anger.  I did not want to write angry, so I put it off and wrote off and on constantly editing what I was trying to say.  Today I realized the anger is not going away because we live in a world full of hatred and brokenness.  On Monday afternoon I drove to Little Rock to participate in a protest against HB 1228.  This piece of legislature gives people in the state of Arkansas the ability to discriminate and refuse service to people based on what they are calling their religious freedom to do so.  

I write because I am struggling to understand.  The main examples given have been florists and bakers who do not want to provide services for same-sex marriages. The argument is that some believe homosexuality is a choice; a way someone chooses to live their life in this world is a sin and “against their religion.”  I have many thoughts on this and on discrimination and hatred in general but I will try to keep them brief. 

I will start by saying even if something is against your religion you still do not have the right to discriminate, alienate, and refuse to treat someone as something other than human.  Period.     

I have found over the years that those who often take this stance are people we label as “conservative Christians.” As a Christian and as a seminarian I have spent a lot of time reading scripture and studying theology and at no point have I ever found that scripture has told me to reject, discriminate, or mistreat someone because I do not agree with them.  What scripture has taught me is that in all things I am to love my neighbors and serve all of God’s children.  I am to treat them as children of God-with dignity and respect-because anything less would be a sin.  What I have learned in scripture is that from the time Adam and Eve were sent from the Garden for disobeying God and sinning against God, God has been at work trying to reconcile the broken world to God’s self.  Discrimination, hatred, alienation, intolerance, lack of compassion, promotion of fear, violence, and isolation of others are all unacceptable because to participate in any of these is to treat someone as less than human.

Today in my tradition we celebrate Maundy Thursday, the night when Jesus ate with the ones who would betray and deny him.  The night when Jesus told his closest friends and bearers of the Gospel that his end was coming.  The night we were given the command to love one another.  On this night we remember. We remember that Christ's death was not just for our own selves but for the sake of the world.  Christ did not die for me and for my friends but for my enemies and for strangers.  Christ died not to condemn the world but to save it.  The Religious Freedom Restoration Acts being passed by states like Arkansas do not reflect the Gospel I have read and studied because they condemn, they alienate, they promote the treatment of those who are not like me as less than human, and they take away people's dignity.  They promote hatred and intolerance in the name of the One who told us to love all people and to serve all people so that the light which overcomes the darkness might shine through.  Tonight I remember that even those I disagree with are children of God who command me to love.  And so I lay aside my anger and I pray that somehow and in some way God might open all of our eyes to see God's own extravagant grace and embrace of all the children of God.  For in doing so I know the world can see the light and we are people of the light. 

I think it is only appropriate that we struggle with these things this week because there is something about the cross and resurrection that speaks to us and says God has been in that darkness with us. And because we are resurrection people, we see the light, we know the light, we can feel the warmth of the light somehow in some way breaking through even the darkest dark.  We feel it hit our face and that glimpse of hope carries us into the next day, the next week, the next month, knowing and trusting that in our darkness God is still present somehow and somewhere.  May God break through and shine light into this world so that we might love and serve all of God's people as God has called us to do in Jesus Christ. 

Peace be with and within you all,